Fiscardo Before the Sun Umbrella Invasion

2016-04-28 07.20.15 (1824 x 1368)Fiscardo is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and prettiest ports in the Ionian.

In 1953 an earthquake destroyed all Kefalonia buildings except those in Fiscardo and a few outlying villages.

In my early Greek Islands Club days we took on a small programme of village houses for those visitors wanting to spend lazy days people and boat watching on Fiscardo waterfront.

In the early 1980’s a coffee on Fiscardo waterfront would have cost around 25 cents in today’s money.

Many of the Greek islands still hold on to a simple lifestyle and do not let the demands of blinkered tourism dictate their future. But whereas an older island generation may not want change, the younger generation will naturally be aspirational: the BMW versus the donkey.

Running a travel business often leads one to hypocrisy. I always tried to offer holiday opportunities to those wanting to escape the crowds and to get to know and be part of a simple Greek island community. In 1990 the BBC Holiday Programme asked me if we would host a film crew in Fiscardo. I said yes. Holiday bookings to Fiscardo soared the following year and Fiscardo started to take on a more chic appearance.

A coffee on Fiscardo waterfront can now cost 4 Euros.

The following photos were taken in 1990 when my mum (Buz), my wife (Vivienne) and I introduced Lorraine Chase (as the Presenter), a BBC researcher plus a cameraman and sound man to the beautiful landscapes of northern Kefalonia and Fiscardo.

You will see that there were only a very few café bar tables and chairs and wooden fishing boats outnumbered fibreglass cruisers. There were also no waterfront sun umbrellas. Today’s waterfront wall of sun umbrellas provide welcoming shade but I still prefer the openness that existed pre-invasion and also the look of traditional, rickety cafenion chairs and chipped metal tables.

But life goes on and Fiscardo will still dazzle and delight.

Lorraine Chase in Fiscardo

Selfie with Lorraine!

Fiscardo waterfront Lorraine Chase

Lorraine & my mum!

Fiscardo waterfront

Fiscardo waterfront 1990

Fiscardo waterfront

Vivienne and Alex at Villa Theodora – this is now a waterfront bar.

Winter 2015 Newsletter

Escape to the Ionian

Another year goes by and despite the unrest in different parts of the world, now is a good time to make plans for one or more escapes in 2016. Our finger on the pulse of holiday bookings to the Greek islands tells us that the larger villas in August are being taken up quickly and the month of June is proving to be very popular.

Geni

I recently read, in a Sunday broadsheet, a review of travel destinations according to a “risk of terrorism” scale of 1 – 10. Many of the destinations were around the 5. I do not know where the Ionian islands of Greece would appear in this scale but I would imagine that they must be amongst the safest destinations to visit. Sitting on a terrace overlooking a still sea with the soft scratching of olive grove cicadas and just the worry of which waterfront taverna to visit later – one can’t help but detach oneself from the outside world.

2004-03-15 19.35.13 (1654 x 1096)

I have met many people who choose not to spend a holiday on a small island because they feel that there are too many limitations – the same views, the same food, the same daily routine – boring and “uneducating”! Every year over the last 50 years I have spent on average 2 – 3 months on Paxos. There are many hidden parts of the island that I have not yet found; all the views are constantly changing with the position of the sun, the movement of the sea and silver olive trees; the food has nearly always been fresh, inspired, colourful and delicious. I love my short breaks on islands like Paxos and after each visit I feel recharged, refreshed and educated in the simple things in life, which so often pass me by in a more frenetic lifestyle back home.

For 2016 we have added a new Ionian island: Zakynthos – direct flights (Easyjet and charter) – Villa Amphitriti sleeps up to 14 people and has a TV monitor showing live footage of local seals and starfish from a nearby underwater camera. We feature 10 villas and will be adding more next year.

Villa Amphitriti, Zante

Villa Amphitriti, Zakynthos

There is a ferry service between Agios Nikolaos (North Zakynthos) and Pessada on Kefalonia – taking 1 hour. As Easyjet operates to both islands you could fly to Zakynthos for a holiday and then on to Kefalonia, flying back to UK from there.

Our other new properties are:

Small villas with pool:

On Paxos, Aspro Alogo 1-bedroom hideaway cottage above Loggos.

On Kefalonia, Marika – a 2-bedroom villa above a sandy beach.

On Kefalonia, The Fiscardo Suites – luxury Suites in the centre of Fiscardo.

On Meganissi, Eftihia – 1-bedroom villa close to the sea.

3-bedroom villas with pool:

On Paxos, Alexia –  hillside olive groves above Lakka Bay.

On Paxos, Eratocoastal villa just outside Gaios.

On Paxos, Kallistoreasonably priced villa close to Magazia.

Villa Kallisto, Paxos

Villa Kallisto, Paxos

On Paxos, Stassinosclose to Lakka.

On Paxos, Portokali House a comfy house just outside Gaios.

On Kefalonia, Villa Amalthea – modern villa above a sandy beach.

On Corfu, Perivoli – a 300 year old property with beautiful gardens.

On Lefkas, Nichola – amazing sea views.

On Ithaca, Mavrouna – short walk to a beach.

4 & 5-bedroom villas with pool:

On Paxos, Aetofolia – possibly the best views over Gaios’ Venetian fortress.

On Kefalonia, Acacia – sprawling villa with huge pool close to a sandy beach.

Villa Acacia, Kefalonia

Villa Acacia, Kefalonia

On Lefkas, Ophelia – spacious retreat with powerful views.

Villas without a pool but close to the sea:

On Paxos, The Old Residency – fantastic apartment for 6 on Gaios waterfront.

On Kefalonia, Villi’s House – just a 5 minute walk to Fiscardo waterfront.

On Ithaca, Poli Beach House – just above a beach & close to village tavernas.

Villa Videos

On our island travels we have started to take some brief videos of villa views as these are not easy to capture in a photo. It’s a learning curve for us but hopefully our filming techniques will become less shaky the more we do. Some examples can be seen on the following properties (click on “View Video”):

Amalia (Paxos)

Beach House (Paxos)

Doctor’s Apartment (Paxos)

Villa Victoria (Lefkas)

Now We Are Three

In 2011 Ionian Villas began with me and my wife, Vivienne. Our son, Alex, has added to his education by working on Paxos as a waiter, a boatman, a dancer, a hamper organiser, a Rep and then for the last 2 years as our Ionian Villas Paxos manager. Alex now joins us back at our Felpham (West Sussex) HQ and Dimitris Aronis becomes our new Paxos manager.

Monodendri beach, Paxos

Alex & Cat’s Paxos wedding day 2015

Photo Competition

We would love to see your Ionian island photos.

Our Photo Competition offers a 1st Prize of a “10% Off” Voucher (redeemable on any of our properties in 2016) and the 2nd and 3rd Prizes are each a case of 12 bottles of Prosseco. Photos can be of any subject but in some way should give a flavour of the Ionian island. Only “Landscape” format, colour not black & white and any number of entries. We will be setting up a website page just to show a selection of these photographs so by sending us your photos you give us the authority to use each photo. We will not pass on any photo to any third party. This Blog is being sent to our Ionian Villas guests but the competition is open to anyone who has visited any of the Ionian islands.

If sending more than 2 photos please send in a Zip file – all photos to be sent to enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

The Competition closes on 1st March 2016.

Corfu Overnight for Paxos Visitors

There are now 3 different hydrofoil/ferry services between Corfu and Paxos so most morning flight departures from UK will allow Paxos clients to reach Paxos the same day. More and more of our Paxos clients are opting to take a flight departing at a “reasonable” time from UK and not at the crack of dawn and staying overnight in Corfu Town before catching an early afternoon hydrofoil to Paxos the following day.

Corfu Old Town is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Italian and French occupations have left a legacy of beautiful architecture and there are now many excellent restaurants and bars. As an alternative to rushing over to Paxos in one day, why not choose from our selection of Corfu hotels (see below), which are all within a 5-minute taxi ride from the airport and a 10-minute taxi ride to the Paxos hydrofoil.

Mon Repos

Cavalieri

Corfu Palace

Please get in touch for hotel room prices.

Corfu

Corfu

Private Speedboat Charter

On most days there are fairly regular ferries between Corfu and Paxos (also hydrofoil), Kefalonia and Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos, Lefkas and Meganissi. There are also private speedboat charter services if you don’t want any waiting around at the port. Please ask us for more information.

Not Sure What to Buy Her for Christmas?

Auree Jewellery has a sparkly selection of surprisingly inexpensive ideas to show that you care. Their website also has a selection of compressed, easy-to-read travel guides including one for Paxos.

Xmas

We hope you have a very Happy Christmas.

 

Olive pruning

Paxos olive grove

Have you ever wondered why some olive trees are regularly pruned whilst others are not. There appears to be a different culture of olive cultivation from island to island, region to region and country to country.

Does the pruning affect the quality of oil?

Stanley Stewart wrote in Times Live the following piece about Paxos olives:

“I walked between tiny hamlets in the interior, through olive groves, steeped in sun-flecked shadow, threaded by dry stone walls, and silent but for the rising drone of cicadas. Olives are the key to the Paxiot character. Olives have meant that, for centuries, no one had to do very much.

It was all down to the Venetians who ruled the island for 400 years until the Napoleonic wars. The Venetians had created an inflated market for olive oil by persuading the women of North Africa that nothing would make them so beautiful as bathing in the stuff. To take advantage of this market, they tried to persuade the Paxiots to plant olive trees. When persuasion didn’t work they offered them one drachma, the equivalent of about £75 in today’s money, for each tree. The islanders promptly planted a quarter of a million.

They have been living off this burst of industry ever since.

“In the old days, if you had 300 trees,” a man told me over coffee one morning in Gaios, “you didn’t need to work. Now the price of olive oil has fallen, people need jobs. They call it progress.”

If olive trees were cathedrals, the Paxos trees would be Notre Dame – elaborate, vast, gnarled, very ancient, and heavily buttressed. They sprawl fantastically. Apparently their owners only bother with pruning every other decade at most.

Paxos’s approach to the whole olive business is not so much laid back as completely horizontal. In most parts of the world, olive harvests usually take six to eight weeks. In Paxos, they can take seven months. The islanders don’t pick olives. They spread nets and wait for them to drop, venturing out now and again to collect the windfall and send them off to press. It is an admirable approach.”

Not sure about the drachma for each tree planted – I think it was a Venetian ducato (ducat).

The Paxos olive trees, up till about 20 years ago, used to yield a crop of olives every other year. This was abruptly changed when it was decided (against the wishes of the Paxiots) to spray the entire island to eradicate an olive blight. The Paxiots say that the present annual harvest is not as good as in the years when it was every two years.

I’m not an olive oil connoisseur but the Paxos olive oil looks good, tastes good & by golly ….

Catch Your Own Whitebait!

1. Book a holiday with Ionian Villas to stay on an uncrowded Ionian island.

2. Buy a medium-sized round Tupperware bowl (lid not needed) & a piece of cloth/muslin and some string.

3. Order chicken for dinner at one of the waterfront tavernas. Take the chicken bones home with you.

4. Put chicken bones in Tupperware bowl. Stretch cloth over the open bowl and tie it securely around the sides with string. Make a hole in the centre of the cloth the size of a 5p piece.

5. Pack swimmers, lashings of feta cheese, oil, bread, chilled retsina and the bowl of bones and head for the beach.

6. Submerge bowl in the shallow water and leave resting on the bottom.

7. Check to see how many fish have entered the bowl & empty fish into a plastic bag and start again.

Simples.

Easter celebrations in the Ionian

Spring has sprung in the Ionian – temperatures are nudging 20 degrees. Greek Easter is late this year, May 5th – Easyjet and Ryanair April and May flights provide the perfect opportunity to see how the Ionian islanders celebrate it. Easter in Greece or “Paska” is THE most important (and loudest) celebration of the year.

For Greek Orthodox Lent, those who so wish will abstain from eating meat and dairy products for seven weeks. On Palm Sunday churchgoers are given a cross made of palm leaves and the strrets leading to village churches are strewn with palm fronds and flowers. Holy Thursday is egg dyeing day. Good Friday is a holiday and most shops and businesses are closed and restaurants do not serve meat dishes. The procession of the bier of Christ is held on Good Friday evening. Led by a band or choir the bier is normally draped in a gold cloth and decorated with fresh flowers. The procession passes the local village churches.

On the Saturday night the festivities start in each village square – an occasion for all the family. It starts with the Resurrection mass where the Priest and the Church Elders form a procession and the ceremonial candles are lit. At midnight the intoning priest is drowned out by firecrackers and fireworks. Friends, family and strangers are embraced and greeted with the words “Christos Anesti” – “Christ has risen”. After this, everybody goes home for a meal of “margueritsa” (traditionally a lamb’s innards broth) – the fast is over. If their candles are still burning, a cross is made above the doorway with the soot from the wick, to protect the house for the coming year.

Easter Sunday is the official end of Lent and the fasting turns to serious feasting. Goats and lambs are turned on garden spits from early in the morning; the family wine is brought out and the dyed, hard-boiled eggs are cracked – a similar principle to conkers, where you hit the other person’s egg and the one that breaks is the loser.

Easter by candlelight

Paxos Springtime

The winter rainstorms in the Ionian are over and there is now an explosion of colour as the Spring sunshine turns warmer and warmer.

Olive grove terraces are filled with fresh bracken, wild gladioli, asparagus and freesias. Roadsides are lined with white convonvulus. Flowering myrtle bushes crowd ancient donkey paths. Inland walks unlock heady aromas of wild herbs crushed underfoot. The sea takes on a more inviting translucency.

Taverna and cafenion tables and chairs are slowly brought outside. Walls of peeling plaster are given a lick of whitewash. The first crop of oranges appear on the grocery shelves.

East coast Paxos

The photo was taken by Alex Watrous just a few days ago on a Paxos walk along the coast.